MedImmune Starts Shipping FluMist

Ignore the sweltering heat and humidity. MedImmune is telling us to start preparing for the winter flu season.

MedImmune, the Gaithersburg biotech division of British drugmaker AstraZeneca, began shipping out its flu vaccine nasal spray, FluMist, Thursday -- nearly three months ahead of its typical schedule.

In the past, manufacturers have distributed their vaccines in October or November to prepare for the flu season's peak in February. But this year a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention panel voted to expand annual flu vaccination to nearly all children, adding about 30 million children and teenagers to the potential inoculation pool.

"Some people might think this is pretty early to offer availability for the flu vaccine," said MedImmune spokeswoman Karen Lancaster. "But now that we're trying to reach all kids, back-to-school check-ups are a great opportunity to get them vaccinated."

Starting vaccination in August may help reach an additional 10.7 million children who are already in the doctor's office, according to Pediatric Academic Societies research.

MedImmune is stepping up production with plans to manufacture 12 million doses for the 2008-2009 flu season. Last year the company made 4.5 million doses.

In addition to doctors' offices and clinics, FluMist will be available at retail pharmacies and supermarkets, as well as 200 school-based vaccination programs and university health centers.
"Like everything in today's world, it's about convenience," Chris Ambrose, director of MedImmune's medical affairs group.

MedImmune launched FluMist in 2003.

Last year it gained wider adoption after the Food and Drug Administration approved the refrigerated version of the vaccine. Previously it had to be frozen, a road block for the doctors, schools and pharmacists who store flu vaccines in refrigerators.

Then, in the fall, the FDA approved FluMist for children 2 to 5 years old, expanding the vaccine into the key needle-averse age group.

By Terri Rupar  |  August 5, 2008; 9:00 AM ET  | Category:  Pharmaceutical
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